Grad Students Find Out What Makes Dolphins Tick - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

02/25/05

Grad Students Find Out What Makes Dolphins Tick

Terry, Sandy and Tony have no idea they are the subjects of a serious study. Psychology grad students Lauren Highfill and Radhika Makecha are watching and listening to the friendly dolphins.

Lauren says, "This is our hyrdophone and we stick it in the water for about two hours when we come down to do observations and it just records all the sounds the dolphins are making."

Meanwhile Radhika observes what the dolphins do.

"For example, his dolphin is Sandy and she's resting at the bottom of the pool. So I record that in the data sheet," she says.

Both students will use the information they collect to write a thesis to get their masters degrees in psychology. The title of Radhika's will be dolphin social play.

"We're just trying to figure out what makes these dolphins tick. We're just interested in what kind of species they are, in terms of behaviors. Are they social animals? What's important to them?"

Lauren's thesis will focus on dolphin personality. She writes down their sounds.

Lauren says, "They usually make the same whistle most of the time and so we can sorta distinguish who's whistling and what they're doing."

The psychological study of dolphins is directly linked to man's behavior.

Dr. Delphine Vanderpool says, "When you study man, you study his behavior, his thinking, ability, his thinking processes, what we call cognition. Sometimes you make comparisons between the animals and see what we can learn and how they compare."

The students say if they can figure that out, they may be able to better understand the very intelligent creatures.

byMarcia Hill

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